Featured New Release Of The Week: What’s Left Unsaid by Emily Bleeker

This week we’re looking at an interesting look at race relations in the South by an author who was raised in the South yet lives deep within Yankee country now. This week we’re looking at What’s Left Unsaid by Emily Bleeker.

Here’s what I had to say about it on Goodreads:

Solid Work of Fiction. This is a difficult one. There is *so much* “white people are evil” “racial discussion” through the first 2/3 of the book that at the time it looked like it would be my first *ever* 4* review for this author (and I’ve reviewed *all* of her prior books, either after publication or, as in this case, as advance reader copies). That noted, it *did* have a couple of moments of calling out the white guilt in ways I’ve often wanted to scream myself. Between these moments and the back third largely dropping these discussions in favor of more deeply diving into the substance of the tale at hand, the latest 5* review was indeed saved, as the story overall is in fact that strong – particularly that back third, when the various discussions and plot threads are woven together quite remarkably… and explosively. Indeed, while it is not known if the *exact* resolution of everything is real, one could very easily imagine it being so. I read for escapism, and if you’re looking for that particular goal in the current environment… maybe wait a few years to read this one. But realize that this one was effectively finished (minus the polishing and publication mechanics) right as the race wars of the summer of 2020 were exploding, which alone provides a degree of context for much of those discussions. Overall a truly strong book for what it is, and still very much recommended.

And for the first time in a very long time, I actually have some additional commentary here. ๐Ÿ˜€

Emily is a long time Facebook friend. Indeed, a lot of the areas I now work heavily in within the ARC world, she was the one that got me into the early steps of. I had read her debut book, WRECKAGE, years ago and LOVE it, and when she posted about an opportunity to join up with an ARC group for her publisher, I jumped on it. But she and I have had *dramatically* different experiences with race in the South, even as white adults of a similar age (+/- just 5 yrs or so). This book is actually based in part on letters uncovered in her own family research there in the actual town in Mississippi she places the book in, and the book is what she saw growing up.

But for me, my own formative years as a Child of the South were truly *extremely* different. Right around the time I was reading this book – and likely why I had such a strong reaction to it those weeks ago – I found out that my former elementary school Principal had died seemingly unknown in a minor one car accident on a somewhat back road in my hometown – the very day of the Atlanta Spa Shootings that grabbed national headline among accusations of racism. What is significant here is my own relationship with that man, Mr. Ralph Lowe, in particular. Mr. Lowe was a black teacher in the exurbs outside of Atlanta in the late 1970s, when he would become one of my dad’s high school teachers. A few years later, he was my own elementary school Principal, and just given the era had to be among the first – possibly *the* first – of his race to hold that title in that school system. But despite being active in causes and boards seeking to genuinely help his people – often quietly/ without media attention – throughout his life, and despite being of an age when he or his siblings likely actively participated in the Civil Rights Movement, Mr. Lowe demanded one thing and one thing only: That everyone treat him with the respect of his position, but otherwise exactly as they would anyone else. This was a point my dad emphasized himself emphatically in one memorable situation where I don’t remember what exactly I did to cause it (though I know that given the era, I did in fact do *something*), but dad – a product of his own era and location – made it *crystal* clear that I was to respect and obey Mr. Lowe just as much as I did my dad himself. In another foundational moment – really moments, as this was repeated much throughout my childhood, whenever my own step grandfather, the only “second grandfather” I ever knew after my natural one (dad’s father) died five weeks after my birth – would utter the infamous “N” word – my mom made it equally emphatic that her children were to *never* use that word under *any* circumstances. And again, my step-grandfather had been the product of his own generation and location, having been born deep in the Jim Crowe area in the area in the northwest corner of Alabama near Muscle Shoals. But I grew up in the 80s and 90s along the very route of that war criminal terrorist bastard William Tecumseh Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign. I literally graduated high school within steps of rails of the Great Locomotive Chase at Adairsville and I graduated college in the same town the event had begun in, Kennesaw, Georgia. My college alma mater’s logo for years bore the outline of the mountain made famous during Sherman’s campaign that sits just a few miles from campus. My hometown, along the rails of the Locomotive Chase roughly halfway between the two, literally still bears the scars of Sherman’s actions via former train track pylons in the Etowah River whose tracks his men destroyed. And yet despite being steeped in so much history just from growing up where I did, my parents taught me *very* different lessons than what so much of society then and now wanted to preach. Growing up on the lower end of middle class (if we were even that high), I was shielded from the worst effects of American poverty – which is admittedly a much higher standard of living than the truly abject poverty I’ve seen even in my adult travels in the Caribbean. While I grew up in a trailer until just after I turned 12, my parents made it a point that we would always have food, clothing, shelter, and each other. Yes, this was helped at times by family (including my farmer/ hunter grandfather who would give us enough venison to last the winter, and who himself had not only survived the Battle of the Bulge, but had won a Purple Heart and Silver Star for his actions there… and then *never spoke of them*, not in the 20 years I knew the man and apparently not even in the 40+ my mother knew her own father). So with regards to *race*, I was taught to neither see nor treat anyone any differently at all, and any time I fell out of that standard the standard was very pointedly reinforced. With regards to *socioeconomic status*… other than one cousin (in a *very* large family) that I never really knew, I am the first to actually graduate college in my family. And thus in going from trailer park kid to now Assistant Vice President of a Forbes 50 company… I’ve seen a bit along the way. ๐Ÿ˜‰ But that is an entirely different story.

Read Emily’s book. It really is excellent, and she really is a truly amazing storyteller. My point with the above is more that hers, and the common media narrative, are not the *only* stories of my homeland and its people. And I urge you to seek out others, perhaps more similar to my own, as well.

But stop reading this and go read Emily’s book. ๐Ÿ˜€

Featured New Release Of The Week: The Other Passenger by Louise Candlish

This week we’re looking at a book that is far more twisted than even the river it is set on. This week we’re looking at The Other Passenger by Louise Candlish.

Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:

More Twisted Than The London River It Takes Place On. This is one of those hyper-twisted books where for much of the tale, you think you’re getting one thing… only for it to flip, then flip again, then again and again and again. Told mostly in two eras, the days immediately after a particular person goes missing and the year prior to that event, this is a tale of intrigue and, let’s be quite honest, quite deplorable characters. Seriously, if you are the type that has to “like” the characters or at least one of them… well, there really isn’t much of that to go around here. These characters are all horrible in some way or another, though hey, perhaps that is life. Overall a compelling story with an ending you won’t believe. Very much recommended.

Featured New Release Of The Week: The Dark by Jeremy Robinson

This week we’re looking at a scifi action tale that wraps itself up in horror clothing remarkably well. This week we’re looking at The Dark by Jeremy Robinson.

As always, the Goodreads review:

The Master Turns To Horror. With this book, Jeremy Robinson – The Modern Day Master of Science Fiction – again attempts a horror book… before bringing it back to the scifi action that is his bread and butter. He first establishes a loveable galoof of an anti-hero: an Army veteran who has PTSD from his experiences in Afghanistan who can’t quite fit in with his suburban civilian “normal” life. Then, he begins building in the mystery and the horror, slowly ramping it up to truly horrific levels across several different types of horror, finally culminating in a truly utterly horrific sequence that, arguably, hard core fans of Mass Effect who are familiar with Mass Effect 2 in particular may be at least somewhat jaded to. And then, the actual scifi action conclusion – almost as though Robinson has made us see hell, and now wants to leave us on a more interesting/ happier note. Long time fans of Robinson may see at least a few similarities to his 2010 “Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God” retelling, TORMENT, though for me that particular book was so horrific *because* it was essentially a modern day version of that famous sermon (which was, in itself, essentially a then-modern retelling of Dante’s Inferno). For those like me who literally had nightmares for *years* after reading that book, I can tell you that this one isn’t anywhere near that bad – at least not in the same ways. It truly is utterly horrific in a couple of sequences in particular, and these new horrors may indeed haunt your nightmares for quite some time. But dammit, that is what makes Robinson the Master. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Very much recommended.

Featured New Release Of The Week: No More Words by Kerry Lonsdale

This week we’re looking at a remarkably strong series opener from a great storyteller who is breaking out of her shell. This week we’re looking at No More Words by Kerry Lonsdale.

As always, the Goodreads review:

Excellent Series Opener. This is one of those books that sucks you in so completely you don’t even remember it is a series opener… until certain plot threads are left dangling at the end. And yet those very threads are clearly worthy of at least one more book, and possibly a book each… which is clearly exactly the point. ๐Ÿ™‚ Lonsdale has always been a remarkably strong storyteller, and here she really begins to break away from everything that could have previously been seen as getting awfully close to “typecasting” – while still maintaining a strong and rare/ possibly unique voice of her own. A great story that hooks you in from chapter one and leaves you desperately begging for Book 2 at the end, this is one book you certainly won’t want to miss. Very much recommended.

Featured New Release Of The Week: Lady Sunshine by Amy Mason Doan

This week we’re doing only our second ever FNR post that also happens to be a Blog Tour post, featuring a remarkably cinematic coming of age tale. This week we’re looking at Lady Sunshine by Amy Mason Doan.

First, here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:

Cinematic. This is one of those books that is very easy to imagine on a screen somewhere, with the younger more idyllic scenes in bright yellow tones and the older, more mature scenes in blue tones. While it didn’t hit me as hard as Doan’s prior works, it was still a strong coming of age tale of secrets, revelations, finding oneself, and forgiveness. Both timelines were extremely vivid and visceral, and both worked well to show where our main character was at each point in her life. Truly an excellent read, particularly in the summer (and perfectly timed, releasing the week before a traditional major vacation week in the US). Very much recommended.

Below the jump, an excerpt and the publisher details, including a description of the book and buy links!
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Featured New Release Of The Week: What’s Done In Darkness by Laura McHugh

This week we’re looking at a book whose greatest strength is just how eerily plausible its story really is. This week we’re looking at What’s Done In Darkness by Laura McHugh.

As always, the Goodreads review:

All Too Real. This is one of those books that apparently I can speak to in a way no other reviewer on Goodreads has so far – from the conservative evangelical American Christian side. Growing up on the exurbs of Atlanta, I knew lands not dissimilar from what McHugh describes in this text in the Ozarks. Very rural lands where even by car the nearest single stop sign town can be an hour away. Farmlands with houses tucked into the trees or far out in the fields. And while I never exactly imagined these kinds of events taking place in them, I’m also familiar enough with the very strains of extremely conservative evangelical Christian culture that McHugh plays off of here. And yes, a lot of the attitudes McHugh describes are all too real – and fairly common, within those circles. Even the ultimate actions here are close enough to things I’ve personally seen as to be plausible, including the actual endgame and reasoning – which would be a spoiler to even discuss glancingly. An excellent creepy thrill ride, this is one of those books that could damn near be a news article. Which would make it a perfect candidate for a screen near you. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Very much recommended.

Featured New Release Of The Week: Far Gone by Danielle Girard

This week we’re looking at a compelling mystery that keeps things refreshingly realistic – if completely twisted. This week we’re looking at Far Gone by Danielle Girard.

Compelling Mystery. This is one of those mysteries that has so much going on that it could feel disjointed in a lesser storyteller’s hands, but Girard manages to make it work quite well. We get the story primarily through three perspectives – Hannah, who witnesses a murder in her opening scene, Lily, a nurse who is a former kidnapping victim who is now working to rebuild her life, and Kylie, the detective who helped Lily in the first book and who here is investigating the murder. Girard manages to keep the pace of the reveals driving through the narrative, all while maintaining plausibly realistic scenarios. Indeed, even the ending is surprisingly refreshing in its realism on all fronts – despite what some activists would have liked. Truly a great story told very well. Very much recommended.

Featured New Release Of The Week: The Appalachian Trail by Philip D’Anieri

This week we’re looking at an intriguing way of looking at the history of the Appalachian Trail. This week we’re looking at The Appalachian Trail by Philip D’Anieri

Unfortunately my string of being plagued by writer’s block continues, but here is the Goodreads review:

Biography – By Way Of Biographies. This was a very interesting read, if primarily for the narrative structure D’Anieri chose in writing it. Here, the author doesn’t set out to provide a “definitive history” of the Trail or the technical details of how it came to be. Instead, he profiles key players in the development of the Trail as it has come to exist now and shows how their lives and thoughts and actions proved pivotal in how the Trail got to where it is. Overall a fascinating book about a wide range of people and attitudes about the boundary of civilization and wilderness, written in a very approachable style – much like much of the Trail itself. Very much recommended.

Featured New Release Of The Week: These Tangled Vines by Julianne Maclean

This week we’re looking at a remarkable tale of love and family. This week we’re looking at These Tangled Vines by Julianne Maclean.

What A Tangled Web We Weave. This was a strong story of finding yourself, even if that happens a bit later than some would like and creates a bit of a mess. And it was a strong story of ever lasting love, treachery, and forgiveness. All set (mostly) in the idyllic Tuscan countryside. The pacing was solid, the dual timeline worked well – even if a sense of foreboding hung over one of the timelines its entire duration. (We learn early in the book – Chapter 1, IIRC – how that timeline ultimately turns out, so getting there is wonderful, yet also like watching a replay of a momentous event… that you know turns out in disaster.) Overall, the writing here really speaks to the strength of Maclean’s storytelling abilities and shows them to be quite strong indeed. Very much recommended.

Featured New Release Of The Week: You Will Remember Me by Hannah Mary McKinnon

This week we’re looking at a fun tale that showed a fairly large set of steel balls in both its writing and its ending. This week we’re looking at You Will Remember Me by Hannah Mary McKinnon.

As always, the Goodreads review:

Misery Loves Company. McKinnon gets bold, trying to tell one cohesive story from three separate primary perspectives – and largely having it work. The ending itself isn’t quite as mind-bending as her 2020 release Sister Dear, and perhaps elements of it are in fact fairly well established much earlier in the text. But it also isn’t *quite* so predictable as some other reviewers make it seem, as many of the actual details aren’t really known until McKinnon actively reveals them. And then that ending. Mind-bending? No. But showing that McKinnon has balls bigger than many male authors? Absolutely. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Very much recommended.

And in quite possibly a first for this blog (which will actually be repeated in about a month… ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), we have a surprise! This week’s Featured New Release is ALSO a Blog Tour! After the jump, an excerpt followed by the publisher information! ๐Ÿ™‚
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